5 Questions That Need To Be Answered on Your Kickstarter Project Page
Storytelling is an essential building block of successful product launch campaigns. It can enable you to convince people you’ve never met to give you money for a product they haven’t tried, and that will only ship months later.
Stories are powerful because they enable you to connect with people on an emotional and logical dimension. They make it possible to inform, entertain, nurture interest, generate demand, establish trust, and build relationships, to name a few.
When launching a product through Kickstarter, the main venue you’ll bring your story to life is your campaign page and project video. This is where you need to entice people. To ripen their interest to the point where they are motivated to take action by backing your campaign.
Having reviewed thousands of project pages and worked with hundreds of creators, I’ve distilled five questions that every project needs to answer. If you can answer these questions clearly, honestly, and comprehensively, you’ll have a shot of enticing people to support your project.
The questions are listed here in order of importance. If you are not able to provide compelling responses to the ones at the top, chances are people won’t care about the responses to the subsequent ones.
As you go through this post, don’t just think about responding to these questions with text. Remember that your responses will also need to be brought to life through photos, videos, graphics, sketches, and more.
Q1: What is your product?
This is the most fundamental question about your product. Its simplicity is deceiving. It can be quite a difficult question because the answer needs to capture your product's essence in a short and clear package.
Here are the aspects of your product that you need to consider when answering this question:
- What type of product is it? Identify in which categories this product exists. Is it a speaker, light, solar charger, some combination of these, etc.
- What does it do? Describe the functionality that the product provides.
- What problem does it solve? Identify the problem, need or desire that this product addresses.
- How does it solve it? Describe how the product solves the problem, need, or desire.
Let’s work through an example. Here is my best take on how the team from Prep’d answered these questions for their most recent project, Cheat Sheets:
- It is a sheet pan with silicone dividers.
- It makes it possible to prep and cook an entire meal using a single pan.
- It’s cumbersome to cook multiple ingredients in an oven since they require different cooking times and a lot of clean up.
- It streamlines cooking and clean-up by making it possible to cook multiple ingredients on a single pan, making it easier to prep ingredients ahead of time, and using dishwasher safe silicone dividers.
Many creators struggle to answer this question because they suffer from the curse of the expert. They are so deeply immersed in their product that they get blinded to the needs and priorities of their audience, who are not familiar with it. This issue often manifests as a difficulty to distinguish the forest from the trees. You know you are suffering from it if you are getting caught up describing your product as a long list of features, or specs.
Q2: What Is Unique About Your Product?
Unless you are developing a category-defining product, like the world’s first holographic display for personal use, your product will be entering a market filled with competitors. It’s crucial to clearly communicate how your product stands apart from competitive offerings.
It’s helpful to create a list of all the ways that your product differs from competitors. But your real challenge is to identify the core attribute that truly sets your product apart from the competition in the eyes of your audience.
Products can be differentiated across several different dimensions. Below is a brief overview of the most common points of differentiation.
Function: Solves a problem more efficiently or effectively than competitive products. This is the most common differentiator touted by creators launching design and technology products. The Nebia by Moen shower head is a great example. It uses half the water of regular shower heads.
Aesthetic: Features form factor, materials, or other design elements that make the product stand out visually. In product categories like watches, aesthetic is the most common differentiator. Creators like Anicorn have developed a strong aesthetic language that permeates their products.
Material: Produced with materials that are innovative or unexpected. This ranges from using premium materials for everyday products to using innovative materials made from recycled products and recaptured pollution. The team at Air-Ink developed artist pens featuring ink made from recaptured exhaust fumes.
Processes: Leverages unique processes for design, manufacturing, or post-sales phases of the product’s lifecycle. A great example is the products from the team at Transparent. They design completely modular electronics that make it so any component can be removed, repaired, or upgraded over time.
Accessibility: Makes a type of product available to people who previously couldn’t afford it. Kniterate is a digital knitting machine that provides creative studios access to capabilities that were only available in industrial knitting machines. Their machine goes for under $10,000, compared to $50,000 for industrial ones.
Values: Embraces practices that are socially responsible. The Granbyware project's team has created a workshop in Liverpool where all of their products are produced. It provides employment and a creative hub for their local community.
Not all of these dimensions are created equally. The first two tend to be where the most meaningful differentiation lies. Here’s why:
If someone is looking for a functional product, like a backpack, they will likely have a set of functional requirements first and foremost. Once they’ve identified a candidate that meets those criteria, other differentiating factors like materials, processes, or values might become decisive.
On the other hand, if someone is looking at design objects for their home, they will likely have aesthetic considerations in mind as their primary filter. If they find something that fits their style, other factors like materials or values can motivate them to take action.
A common “lazy” mistake is to use hyperbolic claims in the place of a well thought out differentiation statement. This usually comes in the form of “world’s best” or “world’s first.” I strongly discourage the use of this clickbait strategy, since these claims are not compelling, descriptive, or defendable.
The Hook: Unique Value Proposition
The top two questions on this list are also the most important. From those answers, you can distill your product’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This marketing term refers to the thing that makes your product stand out from the competition.
A succinct version of your product’s USP will be brought to life in the title and subtitle of your project. A slightly longer version will be brought to life in a couple of short paragraphs at the top of your campaign page.
This content, which lives at the very top of your project page, functions as the hook to get people interested in your product. It needs to entice people to click and read through the rest of your page. If you don’t get this right, then the rest of your page won’t matter.
It will take you many rounds of editing to transform the answers to those questions into an effective hook for your campaign. That’s why, word for word, it will take you a lot longer to write your title, subtitle, and intro copy than any other part of your project page.
Q3: How Does Your Product Work?
Once you’ve captured people’s attention, you need to dive deeper into how your product works and how it can fit into their lives. This is where you delve into details about the user experience, aesthetic, features, and functionality. Make sure to clearly demonstrate how your product delivers on the promise made through the unique selling proposition.
It’s helpful to categorize products into broad buckets when thinking about how to respond to this question.
Simple and visual products.
Just by looking at these products, you can discern what they do and how they work. That means they are relatively easy to bring to life since photos can go a long way to demonstrating how they work.
You still have to be thoughtful about what it means to “show how your product works”. If you are launching a beautifully designed shelving system, like Kur!o, you will need to help people imagine how great the product will look in their own home. That might involve shooting the product in multiple contexts to highlight how it can be used in a bedroom, bathroom, or office.
Technical or complex products.
These hidden aspects can only be revealed through video demos. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to bring to life core aspects of the user experience delivered by these products, even with demo videos.
For example, how can you bring to life the experience of listening to music on a speaker in a beautifully crafted bowl sculpture? You need to explore other means of conveying that experience, ranging from testimonials to frequency graphs that visualize the speaker’s sonic output.
Q4: How Is Your Product Made?
Thus far, all of the questions have focused on generating interest in, and desire for, the product itself. Assuming you’ve accomplished that, there is another hurdle that you need to overcome: you need to establish trust in your teams' ability to deliver on the product vision that you’ve painted.
That’s what this question is all about.
There are three different angles from which you can respond to this question. Your best bet is to tackle it from all three.
Showcase the design and engineering work that has been invested in the product to date by sharing sketches, prototypes, and photos of works in progress. This is an effective way to demonstrate the dedication that your team has for this project and publicly documenting the state of the development.
The project Flipper Zero features a section with a nice selection of photos that document the design and prototyping work they’ve completed on the electronics and enclosure for their product. Their campaign page also includes links to a code repository where backers will be able to access the open-source firmware once the product ships.
Explore the scientific work that serves as the foundation for your product’s core functionality, and provide a glimpse at the results from laboratory tests that support your product’s efficacy.
The Briiv Air Filter project does a great job at highlighting the scientific support for their product’s ability to filter air using natural materials. They even link to a copy of the full laboratory report from tests that were run with one of their prototypes.
Dive into the manufacturing processes, identify the production partners and provide a clear timeline for fulfillment. This will demonstrate to prospective backers that you have a clear understanding of the work involved with manufacturing your product and a plan to make it happen.
The Solid State Watch project walks you through their manufacturing process step by step. They highlight this process as the central arc of their compelling project video. After watching this video, you have full confidence that the creators have the production process all figured out.
Q5: Why Is It Worth Supporting Now?
Once you’ve nurtured a prospective backer’s desire and established trust in your team’s ability to deliver, you still need to give them a reason to pledge to your project today. Otherwise, they may just wait to buy your product once it’s manufactured. Here are the most common strategies adopted by creators to respond to this challenge:
Discounted Pricing: the most common approach to creating urgency is to offer prospective backers a small discount from the expected retail price. This is most effective for ambitious campaigns that rely heavily on online advertising.
Special Access: providing backers with limited-edition versions of a product or access to the product months before it’s available elsewhere can also move the needle.
Personal Connection: creating a human connection with prospective backers by embracing transparency on your video and project page can also motivate people. This is most effective for smaller campaigns from independent designers.
Crafting a Story Takes Time
A well-crafted story can enable you to convince people to give you money for a product they haven’t tried, and that will only ship months from now. These five questions provide a helpful framework to guide the development of your product’s story.
It takes a long time to develop a compelling narrative for a Kickstarter campaign — it takes months, not weeks. You need to give your team time to iterate. And, between each iteration, you need to leave time for the story to marinate.
Start working on your story early. Consider taking the first step this week.
Feedback and Questions
If you have any questions, tips, or feedback, leave it here in a comment, or email me at email@example.com.
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